In one of Kathleen Sebelius' last days as Governor of Kansas, she did an amazing and perhaps unexpected thing. She vetoed a bill that would have "made it more difficult for dairy farmers who don't use recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) to label their milk as such" (in the words of Dr. Michael Hansen from Consumers Union). We (and by "we" I mean:
"Kansas farms, consumer groups and businesses Catalpa Grove Gardens, Pretty Prairie, Community Mercantile Consumer Coop, Creek Four Mill, Iwig Family Dairy, Janzen Family Farms, Kansas City Food Circle, Kayala Emu Estates, Hesston, Larson Acres, Little Red Hen Bakery, Norm's Flour, Sierra Club Kansas Chapter, Spring Creek Ranch, Wichitaw Food Coop, AllergyKids, Breast Cancer Action, The Cornucopia Institute, Organic Consumers Association, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Media and Democracy, Consumers Union, Family Farm Defenders, Food and Water Watch, The Humane Society of the United States, Institute for Responsible Technology, National Family Farm Coalition, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Sierra Club, and Stonyfield Farm, Inc."
... and me) have been asking Sebelius to veto this bill since it passed the Kansas state legislature a few weeks ago. I, for one, did not expect her to actually veto it. I am THRILLED that she did veto it and even more thrilled that a public servant who obviously listens to citizens' opinions as well as science will soon take the reins at the Department of Heath and Human Services, which overseas the FDA. The FDA is the agency that legalized the growth hormone rbGH in the first place and I hope to see that decision reversed under Sebelius based on all of the facts that have been revealed since the hormone was first legalized in the early 1990s.
Sebelius' statement from her veto as well as several reactions from various leaders in the food community are posted below. Jill Richardson :: Victory in Kansas!!!!!! Gov. Sebelius Vetoes rbGH Labeling Bill Sebelius said about her veto:
"House Bill 2121 contains a number of provisions relating to pesticide and fertilizer laws and fees as well as dairy inspection and dairy-related fees. Without these fees, Kansas could lose important programs that support essential agricultural business operations in our state. I urge the legislature to send me these components in an independent bill so I can affix my signature and the Department of Agriculture can effectively administer these programs," Sebelius said.
"However, the Bill before me also provides for changes in dairy labeling that could make it more difficult to provide consumers with clear information.
"The milk labeling provisions negatively impact a dairy producer's ability to inform consumers that milk is from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST).
"Supporters of the bill claim it's necessary to protect consumers from false or misleading information. Yet there has been overwhelming opposition by consumer groups, small dairy producers and retailers to this proposed legislation.
"Furthermore, I am concerned that patchwork labeling requirements that differ from state to state will make it too expensive, in an already troubled economy, to provide consumers with information regarding the dairy products they purchase.
"Therefore, pursuant to Article 2, Section 14 of the Constitution of the State of Kansas, I veto HB 2121."
Here are a few other reactions:
Heather Whitehead, True Food Network Director at the Center for Food Safety:
"Governor Sebelius made the right decision for dairy producers, businesses, and citizens today. "Consumers want more information about the foods we purchase and feed to our families; not less. HR 2121 would have taken Kansas in the wrong direction, and we applaud Governor Sebelius for protecting Kansas farmers and consumers. "
Patty Lovera, Assistant Director at Food and Water Watch:
"There was overwhelming opposition by consumer groups, small dairy producers and retailers to this proposed legislation. As she ascends to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Governor Sebelius has left a legacy of support for the public interest in Kansas with this veto."
Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports:
"Governor Sebelius clearly recognized that the bill's provisions on dairy labeling would have made it harder for consumers to get the information they want about the dairy products they consume and would have hindered dairy farmer's ability to tell consumers that their milk is from cows not treated with rbGH. "
Victory in Kansas-- Gov. Sebelius Vetoes rbGH Labeling Bill
By Jill Richardson
La Vida Locavore, April 23, 2009
Straight to the Source